even before Diogenes‚Ä™ work been quick to claim a dependency of all Greek
philosophy on Biblical knowledge.33 However, Diogenes does not seem to
be attacking non-Greek writers in particular. Rather, it is important that the
sources he cites for the barbarian-origins view are themselves Greek and,
indeed, are often philosophers who will appear elsewhere in Diogenes‚Ä™
work: Hecataeus and Aristotle, for example. So Diogenes is correcting the
Greeks‚Ä™ own misconceptions and restoring to people like Aristotle their
true, Greek, philosophical lineage.34 Diogenes‚Ä™ more extravagant claim that
the Greeks founded the whole human race, which is not pursued or justiÔ¬Āed
in what follows, may reinforce the idea that his concerns are with the genesis
of philosophy, its Hellenic legitimacy.
Diogenes‚Ä™ view is that philosophy is a wholly Greek product and cannot
be found anywhere outside of the Greek world.35 Its parentage is pure Greek,
and can in fact be traced historically to two ‚Ä˜founding fathers‚Ä™, or origi-
nal principles (¬ąrca¬©): Anaximander and Pythagoras (1.13).36 Here in the
preface Diogenes then goes on to give a whistle-stop tour through the two
major traditions of philosophy, the Ionian and the Italian, demonstrating
how it is possible to move from these two founding fathers throughout the
remaining history of philosophy in an unbroken succession. This schematic
listing of the members of these two schools which follows in 1.13‚Ä“15 does not,
however, correspond entirely accurately to the full contents of Diogenes‚Ä™
work. The Cyrenaics, the Megarians, Empedocles, Pyrrho, Timon, and the
Pyrrhonists and those philosophers Diogenes himself labels ‚Ä˜scattered‚Ä™ or
‚Ä˜ungrouped‚Ä™ (o¬¬ spor¬Üdhn (8.91, 9.20)), Xenophanes and Heraclitus, do
32 Latin, for example, often simply uses the transliteration philosophia. Cf. Cic. Off. 2.5: ‚Ä˜Philosophy is
nothing but the desire for wisdom‚Ä™ (nec quicquam aliud est philosophia . . . praeter studium sapientiae).
33 See Ridings (1995), Boys-Stones (2001) 176‚Ä“202. Canfora (1994) claims that Diogenes‚Ä™ prologue is
aimed at writers such as Clement. Also on Diogenes‚Ä™ prologue see Spoerri (1959) 53‚Ä“69, and Gigon
34 Dicaearchus the Peripatetic may have followed Aristotle on this question. He too Ô¬Āgures as a source
for both Diogenes and Philodemus and seems to have offered his own biography of philosophy. See
35 Cf., e.g., Philostr. VA 2.30 and its description of Indian philosophy. Diogenes explains, for example,
that Anacharsis, though Scythian had a Greek mother and spoke Greek (1.101).
¬ąrc¬ě is also a philosophically charged word, used especially of the ‚Ä˜principles‚Ä™ of ‚Ä˜Presocratic‚Ä™
cosmologies: see Diog. Laert. 1.27 (Thales), 2.1 (Anaximander).
142 j a me s wa rre n
not appear in these lists but all Ô¬Āgure in the Lives. This has been taken as
evidence that Diogenes has not revised his work, relying in the preface on
simple schematic successional lists but elsewhere seeing a more complex
picture.37 But it must also be agreed that at this point of the text a simple
successional list serves Diogenes‚Ä™ purpose well. He is trying to establish a
direct line from the two Greek sources for philosophy through to the Ô¬Ānal
exponents of philosophy in each of the two traditions. He can offer more
complexities later in the meat of the volume once he has secured agreement
with his general view that philosophy is of pure Greek descent and does, in
fact, explain how he has decided to proceed with the ‚Ä˜Socratics‚Ä™ only after
he has offered the Life of Socrates (2.47).38 We can excuse, therefore, a little
conscious simpliÔ¬Ācation for the sake of clarity in the preface.
The genetic thesis is the Ô¬Ārst crucial element in Diogenes‚Ä™ overall con-
ception of his work. Secondly, he explains what he takes philosophy and
‚Ä˜the philosopher‚Ä™ to be. Importantly, these are to be contrasted with ‚Ä˜the
wise‚Ä™, sojo¬©. The Ô¬Ārst clue comes at 1.5 where Diogenes is reluctant to
grant Orpheus the title of ‚Ä˜philosopher‚Ä™, principally because he is not sure
whether someone who offered such pictures of the gods as did Orpheus
deserves that title. The theological spin returns in 1.12 where Diogenes
claims that Pythagoras was the Ô¬Ārst to use the term philosophy and to call
himself a philosopher, ‚Ä˜since no human is wise, but only god‚Ä™. Diogenes
seems attracted to this air of humility. At least, he is himself insistent upon
a sharp distinction between the wise men and the philosophers. Thales, for
example, who regularly appears as the Ô¬Ārst ‚Ä˜philosopher‚Ä™ in modern accounts
of Presocratic philosophy, and was also hailed by Aristotle as ‚Ä˜the originator
of this kind of philosophy‚Ä™ (¬ĺ t¬¦v toia√…thv jilosoj¬©av ¬ąrchg¬»v (Met.
983b20‚Ä“21)), is not a philosopher ‚Ä“ at least not at this point of the work39 ‚Ä“
in Diogenes‚Ä™ eyes, but rather a wise man, a soj¬»v. Thales‚Ä™ pupil, Anaxi-
mander, is the Ô¬Ārst philosopher of the Ionian line. The reason for this, it
seems, is that Diogenes is insistent on the strict understanding of ‚Ä˜philoso-
pher‚Ä™, jil¬»sojov as one who loves wisdom, with the implication that this
lover of wisdom is not yet wise. A philosopher is a student, one who strives
after the understanding and perfection of the wise man. If Thales is a wise
man, a soj¬»v, therefore, he cannot be a philosopher, jil¬»sojov.
37 Goulet (1992).
38 Compare the similar explanation of his procedure with different Cyrenaic factions at 2.85‚Ä“6. Cf.
39 Cf. Goulet (1999) 49‚Ä“52. At 1.122 Thales is the founder of the Ionian philosophy, and at 8.1 the
Ionian philosophy is said to derive ¬ąp¬ľ Qalo√“ (cf. 1.13: ¬ąpo %naxim¬Ündrou). Goulet concludes
that Diogenes is trying to reÔ¬‚ect two traditions, one in which Thales is a sage and another in which
he is the Ô¬Ārst Ionian philosopher.
Diogenes La¬®rtius, biographer of philosophy
Rather too quickly this [study] came to be called ‚Ä˜wisdom‚Ä™ and the one who
declaimed it a ‚Ä˜wise man‚Ä™, as being someone who had attained perfection in his
soul. A ‚Ä˜philosopher‚Ä™, then, was someone who loves wisdom. (1.12)40
The contest for the possession and correct application of the term ‚Ä˜philoso-
pher‚Ä™ has a long and ancient heritage, which can be traced at least as far back
as the Platonic dialogues.41 Diogenes himself may be alluding to a contin-
uing discussion of the term when he goes on in 1.12 to note that ‚Ä˜sophist‚Ä™,
sojist¬ěv, was also used as an equivalent for soj¬»v, which itself had been
adopted as a term for those Diogenes wants more properly to designate
by the term jil¬»sojov. ‚Ä˜Sophist‚Ä™, sojist¬ěv, he explains, was also used of
people such as poets ‚Ä“ people whom he wishes to exclude from the present
work.42 Diogenes passes rapidly through these potential confusions, but
the complaint in 1.12 about the all-too-easy confusion of the philosopher
and the wise man seems to indicate that Diogenes wishes to maintain a
clear and speciÔ¬Āc distinction: there are sages and there are philosophers.
Diogenes‚Ä™ interest lies primarily in the latter. To be a philosopher is on this
account to be in pursuit of something, perhaps even in pursuit of some-
thing which might deserve to be called superhuman. At least, philosophers
seem to be in pursuit of some kind of perfection and understanding ‚Ä“ the
understanding which the wise have, in contrast, already attained.43
There are clear parallels and possible sources for the sort of distinction
which Diogenes presses here and in his distinction between the wise men
of book 1 and the ‚Ä˜philosophers proper‚Ä™ of the following nine. First, there is
the Platonic vision of philosophy as a desire for the knowledge or goodness
which one lacks, which plays a prominent role in Diotima‚Ä™s speech in the
Symposium. Second, there is the Hellenistic schools‚Ä™ own concentration on
the promotion of the ideal exemplar of their particular philosophy, the wise
man ‚Ä“ an ideal which the Stoics, for example, thought was rarely if ever
attained.44 But Diogenes‚Ä™ classiÔ¬Ācation is not merely a relic of previous
attempts to classify and extol the philosophical life. In the economy of
Diogenes‚Ä™ work this distinction adds a further dimension to the emerging
Q¬étton d¬• ¬–kale¬±to soj¬©a, ka¬™ soj¬ľv ¬ĺ ta√…thn ¬–paggell¬»menov, √Āv e¬≠h ¬čn kat √¬ ¬ąkr¬»thta
yuc¬¦v ¬ąphkribwm¬”nov, jil¬»sojov d¬• ¬ĺ soj¬©an ¬ąspaz¬»menov.
41 See Nightingale (1995) 13‚Ä“59. Cf. Burkert (1960).
42 We might compare Philostr. VS 479, 484 on the distinction between ‚Ä˜philosopher‚Ä™ and ‚Ä˜sophist‚Ä™.
Philostratus will deal with only those philosophers who also had a reputation for sophistry in addition
to those who are ‚Ä˜proper‚Ä™ kur¬©wv sophists.
43 Again, note that Diogenes does not offer entirely hagiographical biographies of philosophers. These
Lives are unlike those later treatments of, say, Pythagoras and Plotinus by Porphyry, or Origen by
Eusebius. See on these: Cox (1983), Clark (2000).
44 See Alex. Aphrod. Fat. 199.14‚Ä“18. For Stoic discussions of the deÔ¬Ānition of philosophy and wisdom
see Sen. Ep. 89.4‚Ä“8. Cf. Brouwer (2002), esp. 186‚Ä“99.
144 j a me s wa rre n
portrait of what it is to be the sort of person whose life and thoughts are
worthy of record and consideration ‚Ä“ the pursuit of understanding.
Perhaps this much is not so unusual. However, Diogenes adds another
theme to this conception and by doing so enlarges his picture of the nature
of philosophy and the nature of philosophers. To this interest in what it
is to be a philosopher and in the ways in which philosophers differ from
everyone else he adds an interest in the question of how one comes to
be a philosopher. A persistent theme through the work is the mechanism
by which someone comes to take up philosophy ‚Ä“ indeed, it is perhaps
reasonable to term this a ‚Ä˜conversion‚Ä™ to philosophy since it is often a
life-changing event ‚Ä“ and, following from this, the mechanism by which
philosophy is transmitted from one generation to the next. Here the two
genres to which his work is indebted function perfectly in tandem. From
the successional lists Diogenes takes the basic notion that philosophers
are not born but made. In particular, they are formed by interaction with
and interest in other, older, philosophers. Each new philosopher in these
successions is the pupil of the last. From the biographical genre he can take
a series of more detailed and elaborate stories of the conversion of various
different philosophers. Biography‚Ä™s interest in the peculiar character of the
philosopher, its emphasis on the charismatic strangeness of the philosopher,
offers tremendous scope for tales of conversion, infatuation and instruction
to colour and nuance the bare ‚Ä˜master‚Ä“pupil‚Ä™ relationships offered by the
successional lists. There are many such anecdotes throughout the Lives.
Here, by way of an example, I offer a brief look at one case, the story of
Crantor and Arcesilaus (4.28‚Ä“9).45
This is how he took up with Crantor . . . First of all, before moving to Athens,
he was a pupil of Autolycus his countryman, with whom he travelled to Sardis.
Then he was a pupil of Xanthus the Athenian musician. Next he was a pupil of
Theophrastus. Finally he moved across to the Academy and Crantor. For Moireas ‚Ä“
the brother I have already mentioned ‚Ä“ encouraged him into rhetoric, but Arcesilaus
was a lover of philosophy. Crantor desired him also and quoted the line from
Euripides‚Ä™ Andromeda ‚Ä˜O maiden, if I save you will you be grateful to me?‚Ä™ (Nauck
fr. 129), and was answered by the next line: ‚Ä˜Take me, stranger, as a slave or a wife‚Ä™
(Nauck fr. 130). From then on they lived together.
45 For a discussion of the story of Polemo‚Ä™s conversion (Diog. Laert. 4.16) and of Nausiphanes‚Ä™ interest
in Pyrrho (9.64), see Warren (2002) 160‚Ä“4. Like these, the story of Crantor and Arcesilaus is from
Antigonus of Carystus, although Diogenes does not name the source here. The parallel text is Phld.
Acad. Ind. XVII, which breaks off before the Euripidean citations. Cf. Dorandi (1999) lx, who ends
his Antigonus fr. 17B at jilosoj¬©av ¬Ęra (which becomes ¬–p¬™ jilosoj¬©an ¬ĺrm¬¦sai in Philodemus).
Also see on this conversion story: Long (1986) 439‚Ä“40. On conversion generally see Nock (1933) who
deals cursorily with philosophical conversions at 164‚Ä“86.
Diogenes La¬®rtius, biographer of philosophy
Arcesilaus‚Ä™ intellectual formation begins close to home but moves from one
teacher to the next and from place to place until he Ô¬Ānds his true home and
true love in the Athenian Academy. In particular, this story demonstrates
Arcesilaus‚Ä™ search for his true calling in the face of pressure from family
members and offers of favours from other potential teachers. Arcesilaus has
a desire for philosophy, cast in terms of erotic attraction (¬Ęra), and Ô¬Ānally
Ô¬Ānds his philosophical life-partner after a process of courtship enacted here
through the exchange of lines from tragic verse in which Crantor becomes
the hero, rescuing the young maiden Arcesilaus from the clutches of rhetoric
in return, presumably, for the fulÔ¬Ālment of his own desire for the gifted
young philosopher. Theophrastus, the spurned suitor, goes on in the passage
which immediately follows (4.30) to curse his luck at losing this promising
student. Indeed, the Euripidean tragedy is entirely appropriate. Crantor
plays the part of the heroic Perseus, rescuing Arcesilaus/Andromeda from
the clutches of a sea monster (Theophrastus or, perhaps, rhetoric) to which
he has been sacriÔ¬Āced by his own family.46 Like Andromeda, once he is
saved Arcesilaus never returns to his family but travels instead to live with
his new saviour and lover.
The Euripidean quotations also emphasise the eroticised nature of philo-
sophical pupillage, which is plain on the surface of this and similar stories.
Equally clear is the notion that philosophy is not a pursuit in which peo-
ple engage half-heartedly or as a mere stepping-stone towards other more
practical matters. Rather, philosophy is the ultimate goal and the deÔ¬Āning
pursuit of Arcesilaus‚Ä™ life, and his previous life, characterised by a series of
teachers in different subjects and constant travelling from place to place,
contrasts markedly with the stable and constant life of philosophy which
he Ô¬Ānds with Crantor, with whom he stays until Crantor‚Ä™s death (4.32).
Diogenes would have found stories such as this in the Hellenistic biogra-
phies which Ô¬Āgured as his sources, many of whom seem to have cast the
master‚Ä“pupil relationship in the terms of pederastic courtship.47 We might
also speculate that this general principle of transmission, that in order to
be a philosopher one must be inspired and converted to philosophy some-
how by another ‚Ä“ usually older ‚Ä“ philosopher, offers a further reason for
Diogenes to begin his work with the sojo¬©, who do not ‚Ä“ it seems ‚Ä“ need
46 For the plot of Euripides‚Ä™ play see Eratosth. Cat. 15, 17 and the fragments in Nauck.
47 The pederastic mode of casting philosophical pupillage is already present in Platonic works, and
is certainly working in the background of Alcibiades‚Ä™ speech in the Symposium. Zeno of Elea is
Parmenides‚Ä™ young lover (paidik¬Ü) at Prm. 127b5, which is presumably the source for Diog. Laert.
9.25. Dumont (1987), Gaiser (1988) and Dorandi (1991) all try to downplay any erotic overtones in
146 j a me s wa rre n
such (inter)personal inspiration and conversion. Without them, an inÔ¬Ā-
nite regress is threatened. Thales and Pythagoras therefore can stand as the
Ô¬Ārst converters to philosophy without themselves needing to be similarly
This general means of explaining the continued presence of philosophy,
through direct personal inspiration from other philosophers, sits neatly
with Diogenes‚Ä™ genetic thesis. Not only can he claim, therefore, that phi-
losophy is purely Greek in its origin, he can also demonstrate through the
biographical details of the Lives that this lineage is thoroughly preserved
without dilution through the subsequent course of philosophical history.
Philosophers attract, inspire and produce other philosophers. And since
the Ô¬Ārst philosophers were Greek and philosophy is a uniquely Greek prac-
tice, this mode of transmission and propagation ensures the legitimacy of
Greek philosophy from generation to generation. The Lives, therefore, offer
a genealogy of philosophy, positioning each philosopher in his particular
place on the family tree.
At this stage we may also be in a position to understand Diogenes‚Ä™
somewhat fossilised view of philosophy. The date of the work is not certain,
but Diogenes is certainly writing some time in the early third century ce
(the terminus post quem is given by the dates of Saturninus, the pupil
of Sextus Empiricus, mentioned at 9.116 and Theodosius, mentioned at
9.70). If so, then it might indeed be thought surprising that Diogenes
offers no extended discussion of developments after the early Hellenistic
period. He mentions no Christian philosophy, nor any ‚Ä˜Middle‚Ä™ or ‚Ä˜Neo-‚Ä™
platonism. This concentration cannot be assigned merely to Diogenes‚Ä™
primarily Hellenistic sources, since this provokes the further question why
Diogenes was so wedded to such aged sources. Further, Diogenes does
mention some philosophers of later periods. He is well aware of the existence
of Pyrrhonist philosophers up to Saturninus (9.116) and of Epicureans such
as Philodemus (10.3). Later Stoics such as Posidonius (e.g., 7.39, 10.4) and
Panaetius (7.41) are also mentioned as sources, even if they did not merit
their own Lives.49
These later philosophers all tend to be following one or other of the major
traditions of philosophy, all of which were either established by the end of
the Hellenistic period or, in the case of Pyrrhonism, for example, explicitly
48 Cf. Frede (1992) 319: ‚Ä˜Diog`ne sugg`re ainsi que la philosophie s‚Ä™enracine en quelque facon dans
e e ¬ł
cette sagesse pr¬ī-philosophique.‚Ä™
49 The contents in Parisinus graecus 1759 and its copies lists under book 7 the names of many later
Stoics up to Cornutus. It is generally agreed that book 7 is incomplete, but it is not so certain that
Diogenes would have included Lives corresponding to each of these names. See Dorandi (1992).
Diogenes La¬®rtius, biographer of philosophy
sought to claim for themselves a Hellenistic foundation. These philosophers
cast themselves as followers or rediscoverers of the ‚Ä˜true‚Ä™ nature of the
philosophies of Socrates, Plato, Epicurus and the others.50 In that case,
perhaps Diogenes took them at their word. Their claims against personal
innovation disqualify them from needing to appear in their own right
in the Lives since they themselves would have to agree that the major
philosophical positions had been offered, at least in outline, already by the
end of the Hellenistic period. In addition to the founders of the Hellenistic
schools, therefore, Diogenes includes Lives of those Cyrenaics and Stoics,
for example, who either dissented signiÔ¬Ācantly from the orthodoxy (e.g.,
Ariston) or elaborated and added importantly to the founder‚Ä™s view (e.g.,
Chrysippus). Diogenes is once again not the poor prisoner of an outdated
set of sources; he is responding to and implicitly endorsing a particular view
of philosophical history.51
Diogenes left us very little assistance in placing him and his work in any
particular intellectual or cultural context. While in many ways it is tempt-
ing, mainly on the basis of the approximate dating we have for the work,
to link Diogenes and his project with other roughly contemporary bio-
graphical works by Plutarch, Philostratus and Eunapius, swift assimilation
to these other Imperial works does not seem to me to be particularly illu-
minating of the full nature of his project.52 True, Philostratus does show
some concern with pupil‚Ä“teacher relationships and in tracing the origin of
his particular interest ‚Ä“ sophistic rhetoric ‚Ä“ to a venerable Greek source (VS
482‚Ä“4). He also follows a generally chronological order in the organisation
of his Lives. Diogenes‚Ä™ concern for mapping successions, however, is far
more pervasive, to the extent that he marks pointedly the two ‚Ä˜unordered‚Ä™
philosophers whom he cannot omit but also cannot place within any suc-
cessional line (8.91, 9.20). It is of enormous importance for him to be able
to produce as full as possible a genealogy of philosophy, encompassing all
the members of his cast list, and he sometimes includes long lists of names,
the only purpose of which besides, perhaps, the impression of scholarship
50 Cf. Frede (1992) 319‚Ä“21.
51 Sedley (2003) argues that Diogenes‚Ä™ history of philosophy ends at roughly the same time as Athens‚Ä™
decline as a philosophical centre. Neo-Pyrrhonism, which does continue in Diogenes‚Ä™ work into the
Imperial period, was never an Athenocentric movement.
52 On these and similar biographical works of the period see, for example, Edwards and Swain (eds.)
(1997). Eunapius, although he refers to both Plutarch and Philostratus, seems to have no knowledge
of Diogenes‚Ä™ work (Eunap. VS 454).
148 j a me s wa rre n
and comprehensiveness, is to link together important and known philoso-
phers (see, for example, the list at 9.115‚Ä“16). The entire work is carefully and
systematically ordered to follow the two lines of progression introduced at
1.13. The Ô¬Ārst branch of the family tree takes up books 1 to 7; the second
half books 8 to 10 (see 8.1).
Diogenes‚Ä™ other constant concern is the frequent references to the sources
from which he has gathered his information. He is extremely careful to
demonstrate his use of and dependence on other historians and mines of
information. His own presence in the text is downplayed. Further, the
philosophers in Diogenes‚Ä™ work hardly appear to function as ethical exem-
pla, positive or negative, as they do in, for example, Plutarch, except in so
far as we might think Diogenes to be recommending and praising most
generally a ‚Ä˜life of philosophy‚Ä™, following no matter which particular philo-
sophical outlook.53 In fact, Diogenes seems deliberately to cultivate an air
of Hellenistic rather than Imperial times. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his
decision to write the history of philosophy only up to the end of the Hel-
lenistic period, Rome and Roman contexts for Greek philosophers do not
Ô¬Āgure at all prominently in his work.54 He surprisingly fails to mention,
for example, Carneades‚Ä™ famous speeches for and against justice delivered
during an embassy to Rome in 155 bce, and which form much of ‚Ä“ so far as
we can tell ‚Ä“ the third book of Cicero‚Ä™s Republic. All this makes Diogenes
again unlike Philostratus, whose works can certainly be read as generally
preoccupied with the relationship between sophists and sophistry, power,
the emperor and the like.55 It is conceivable, I suppose, that the lack of refer-
ence to Rome in Diogenes is meant to be a conspicuous absence, a deliber-
ate erasure of Rome from philosophical history. After all, Diogenes‚Ä™ genetic
hypothesis and his philosophical genealogy stress and ensure the pure Greek
nature of the philosophical life so he might be taking a staunch and deÔ¬Āant
Greek outlook on philosophy. But it equally possible that Diogenes was
simply unconcerned with tackling Rome‚Ä™s relationship to philosophy, and
should not therefore be placed alongside those other writers whose con-
cerns were those of ‚Ä˜being Greek under Rome‚Ä™. As I have outlined, there
are few if any elements of Diogenes‚Ä™ work which could not plausibly be
argued to derive in the main from his Hellenistic sources, perhaps even the
53 Cf. Cox Miller (2000) 217‚Ä“9. On Plutarch‚Ä™s paradigmatic lives see Duff (1999).
54 The references to Rome are all ‚Ä˜in passing‚Ä™: 2.104, an Aristippus wrote on the Romans; 5.61, a Strato
wrote about Philip and Persaeus‚Ä™ war with Rome; 7.35, a Zeno wrote a work on Rome; 8.14, Romans
among those who came to hear Pythagoras; 8.72, a statue of Empedocles moved to Rome from
Agrigentum; 9.84, Roman burial customs (in a Pyrrhonist ‚Ä˜mode‚Ä™); 9.109, Tiberius the dedicatee of
a commentary on Timon‚Ä™s Silloi.
55 See Whitmarsh (2001) 225‚Ä“46.
Diogenes La¬®rtius, biographer of philosophy
interest in biography itself as a literary form. I suspect that had we more of
Philodemus‚Ä™, Antigonus‚Ä™ and even Dicaearchus‚Ä™ works we would Ô¬Ānd many
more similarities with those of Diogenes. There is no positive evidence for
seeing cultural identity and self-deÔ¬Ānition as overarching concerns in Dio-
genes‚Ä™ work except on the question-begging premise that such concerns are
a characteristic of all elite Greek writing of this period.56 Nevertheless, to
resist pushing Diogenes into a group with other Imperial biographers does
not require that we return to viewing him as a mere compiler of antiquated
works. Indeed, both these approaches could be faulted for neglecting to
consider Diogenes‚Ä™ work and its own ambitions and innovations in full
and on its own terms.
Diogenes is not a Ô¬Āne philosopher, nor is he a Ô¬Āne historian of philosophy
in the sense that someone now might set out to write a history of philos-
ophy.57 Rather, Diogenes‚Ä™ work sets out to do something different, and
Diogenes‚Ä™ method and organisation suits this particular purpose perfectly;
it is not a mere haphazard joining of previously distinct doxographical
and biographical methods. That purpose is the presentation of philoso-
phy as a distinctive, and distinctively Greek, way of life. Philosophy arose
only in Greece and was transmitted from philosopher to philosopher, each
new generation attracted and converted to the pursuit of wisdom by the
charisma and intellect of the previous generation. Philosophy is inherited.
It is passed down from the very Ô¬Ārst philosophers through the different
branching and forking family trees traced by the successional literature.
Diogenes offers, therefore, a genealogy of philosophy, a story of the philo-
sophical family, their lives, and interrelations. We should surely expect a
genealogy of this sort to combine precisely the two elements of biography
and diadochňÜ, the dual focus on the lives of individuals and the succession
between one philosopher and the next which, unless they are viewed in the
light of this overarching conception of philosophy and its history, might
otherwise be thought the respective relics of two earlier genres, imperfectly
56 Cf. Whitmarsh (2001) 2.
57 Compare Frede (1992) 312, 325 who also argues that Diogenes should not be criticised for his failings
as a historian of philosophy, because Diogenes‚Ä™ project is not like that of a modern historian of
The creation of Isidore‚Ä™s Etymologies or Origins
I believe that almost everyone who uses the book Ô¬Ānds it more con-
venient to have recourse to the Index Ô¬Ārst.
(John Roget, Introduction to Roget‚Ä™s Thesaurus (1879, 2nd edn),
cited by Roget (2002), Introduction, p. xv)
Dear Alexander Valkner,
. . . it was a relief to come across your long, brilliant piece in a recent
issue of Comment, namely: The History of Dictionaries.
. . . From intimacy you travelled to grandeur, then back and forth,
like a marvellously controlled metronome. I admired the way your
essay builds on itself so meticulously, and the way it is anecdotal,
accessible, and, Ô¬Ānally, shading toward the confessional. I recognized
only too well the moment in which you were tempted to approach
some of our great writers to see whether or not they ‚Ä˜indulge‚Ä™, keeping
a thesaurus hidden in their desk drawer.